Court Cases


Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court on Thursday nullified the election of the speaker of parliament, who came from opposition ranks, about two years after President Robert Mugabe’s party lost the post for the first time.

The country’s highest constitutional court ruled that the election of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s ally, Lovemore Moyo, did not follow proper procedures after a challenge by a senior member of Mugabe’s ZANU PF party, lawyers said.

The ruling is likely to escalate tensions in the fragile unity government at a time Mugabe’s ZANU PF is pushing for elections this year. This also means Tsvangirai’s MDC will have to fight for the position again.

(Source)

The wife freedom fighter Munyaradzi Gwisai the leader of a group of activists detained in Robert Mugabe’s police is appealing for their release.

Shantha Bloemen’s husband, Munyaradzi Gwisai, was an academic and former member of Parliament in Zimbabwe.

Gwisai and 44 others were arrested on Saturday while meeting to watch footage of anti-government protests in North Africa. The group was charged with treason, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty.

Prosecutors in Zimbabwe said this was an attempt to orchestrate an Egyptian-style removal of President Robert Mugabe.

“This is ludicrous charges…” said Bloemen.

“It was a bunch of people gathering to watch some videos. For this to be a crime and a crime of this magnitude is just incomprehensible.”

She said some of the group members were beaten and denied medical care while in police custody. Some members were also denied antiretroviral drugs for those who are HIV positive.

The group will remain in maximum security prison.

(Source)

A Zimbabwean court has released two of the prime minister’s drivers who were arrested on accusations of possessing blue police-style beacon lights without clearance.

Attorney Kossam Ncube says the drivers spent three nights in jail in southern Zimbabwe after returning from South Africa on Friday with the beacons for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s motorcade. Their car was impounded.

The drivers each posted $100 bail on Tuesday. Police said only police or military vehicles or President Robert Mugabe’s escort are authorized to use blue beacons.

Tsvangirai’s party described the arrests as continuing harassment and persecution of the prime minister and his staff in the nation’s shaky two-year coalition government.

(Source)

Three Chinese men have been arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly using fraudulent visas to enter the country, the state-run Herald daily reported Wednesday.

According to the newspaper, the visas were from a visa book stolen from Zimbabwe’s Immigration Department.

Yan Xiao Hua, He Huiju and Huang Jia Xing were arrested upon arrival at Harare International Airport on Sunday and are awaiting deportation.

The trio’s lawyer Charles Chinyama, however, said his clients were innocent victims of fraud.

“Our clients applied for Zimbabwean visas while they were still in China. They engaged services of an agent, Bo Liung, who promised to process the visas on their behalf for a fee.

They duly paid the required fees to Mr Bo Liung and they were later advised that their applications for visas had been successful and their passports were returned with visas,” he said.

Bo Liu has already been deported from Zimbabwe on related offences.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has tightened residency requirements for foreigners, telling investors wishing to settle in the country to show proof of personal funds amounting to US$1 million before becoming eligible for permanent residency, private radio station Radio VOP reported Wednesday in Harare.

Private radio station Radio VOP reported Wednesday that Zimbabwe’s Department of Immigration now also requires a US$500 non-refundable processing fee from foreigners upon submission of an application for a permanent residency permit while US$2,500 would be paid when the licence is issued.

Zimbabwe’s immigration regulations allow local companies to employ foreigners under temporary work permits.

Such permits are only issued by the Department of Immigration upon application by the company, which should provide proof that the requisite skill cannot be sourced locally.

Foreigners are only permitted to work within the capacity for which their specific permits were issued.

Their spouses and children may reside in Zimbabwe provided that they do not take up employment.

Zimbabweans are currently up in arms over the influx of Chinese and Nigerian business people who have taken up most of the shop space in the country’s main towns and cities.

(Source)

Treason charges against Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai arising from secret US documents made public by WikiLeaks will not stand the legal test but will be used to persecute President Robert Mugabe’s longtime foe, lawyers have warned.

Zimbabwe’s Attorney General Johannes Tomana at the weekend announced that a commission would be appointed to investigate the alleged “treasonous collusion” between officials from Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Western governments.

Hardliners from Mr Mugabe’s ZANU PF party have been calling for the prosecution of Mr Tsvangirai following revelations in the WikiLeaks website that he privately urged Western governments to maintain sanctions against the country.

ZANU PF at its conference two weeks ago also called on the inclusive government to come up with a law that would make it treasonous for anyone to call for sanctions against the country.

However, leading human rights lawyer Ms Beatrice Mtetwa said it would be problematic to prove that Mr Tsvangirai committed treason in a court of law.

“From a legal perspective it would be folly,” Ms Mtetwa told a British newspaper.

“When it comes to witnesses, are they going to call back the former US ambassadors?

“The cables are based on opinion, not fact. There are hosts of legal problems.

“But I am not going to say it’s unlikely because the AG has been known to chase rainbows against us. He was put in the position for that particular reason.”

(Source)

A Movement for Democratic Change activist in Zhombeni area here, Donald Sithole has been fined a beast by the local headman for allegedly putting up his party’s posters in the area while in another incident an MDC minister faces arrest for refusing to pay road toll fees.

Sithole, an MDC activist was last week dragged at headman Saurombe’s traditional court after ZANU PF supporters who had seen him putting up MDC posters calling for a meeting reported him to the kraalhead.

The chairperson of the MDC in the area, Lameck Chishakwe said Sithole had been given two weeks to pay the beast or risk being banished in the area.

Chishakwe said the headman said the MDC was not welcome in his area and anyone who was seen trying to campaign for the party will be punished.

“For putting the posters Sithole was fined a beast which he should surrender to the chief before Christmas,” said Chishakwe.

Chishakwe said Sithole was part of the MDC youths who were putting posters in the area alerting party supporters about a meeting which was supposed to be addressed by local MDC- Member of Parliament, Lynnette Karenyi.

Two weeks ago the headman forced villagers to attend and buy ZANU PF party cards in the area. One of the villagers among the gathering contacted Karenyi through her mobile phone advising her about the issue. The legislator swiftly raised alarm to the police who immediately stopped the practice.

Blessing Nyamaropa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in Mutare said actions by the headman were illegal.

“What the headman has done is a violation of Sithole’s rights to support a party of his choice. We urge him to keep a record of the proceedings and the headman’s acknowledgement of the beast. If the issue is formally brought to our attention we will certainly act as human rights defenders ,” said Nyamaropa.

The headman could not be reached for a comment.

Meanwhile an MDC deputy minister belonging to the Morgan Tsvangirai faction Tongai Matutu faces arrest for refusing to pay the US1 road toll fees along the Masvingo – Bulawayo Highway on Friday.

Matutu who is Deputy Minister for Youth Empowerment and Indigenisation refused to pay the toll fees while on his way to Bulawayo.

Masvingo police spokesperson Inspector Tinaye Matake confirmed the development saying:“We want to arrest him for assaulting ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) officials and subsequently refusing to pay the toll gate fee at Mhandamahwe last Friday. We consider the crime serious since Matutu is a minister who should lead by example.”

Matutu is also among the six MDC-T MPs who are wanted for intimidating ZANU PF supporters who had gathered for a rally in Bikita around August this year.

His lawyer Douglas Mwonzora told Masvingo Magistrate Oliver Mudzongachisvo who convicted Matutu that all the crimes levelled against his client were a political ploy by ZANU PF to thwart MDC-T in the province.

Matutu is considered to be the strongest MDC –T strategist in Masvingo who crafted ideas which saw the first ever defeat of ZANU PF in 14 constituencies.

“Matutu is feared for what he has done so far. As a lawyer who freely represents MDC-T activists and a vibrant young politician, obviously ZANU PF is baying to see him being crucified,” said an analyst who refused to be named.

Matutu was also recently convicted of assaulting Chief Serima.

(Source)

Magistrate Samuel Zuze reversed his sentence on a Chipinge resident Gift Mafuka who was due to serve 12 months in jail for insulting or undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe.

The reversal of the sentence by Zuze follows the intervention of the influential rights group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who had appealed to the magistrate on behalf of Mafuka.

Mafuka was accused of insulting Zimbabwe’s octogenarian leader when he saw two young boys aged between 12 and 13 wearing t-shirts with President Mugabe’s images and asked why they were putting on t-shirts with the image of an old person with wrinkles on the face. The Chipinge man allegedly told the two boys that President Mugabe was on his way out and that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was the president-in-waiting. He allegedly went on to threaten the juveniles before the minors ran away. But that was not before Mafuka ran after them and caught one of them whom he whipped.

Zuze ordered Mafuka’s lawyers to pay US$100 in bail money and imposed some reporting conditions for the Chipinge man.

Mafuka’s lawyer Langton Mhungu of Matutu, Kwirira and Associates, who is a member of ZLHR argued in his application for bail pending appeal against both conviction and sentence that a conviction and a prison term was not the proper verdict that Magistrate Zuze ought to have reached.

The lawyer also argued that the evidence of the State witnesses was not sufficient to warrant a conviction and that the sentence imposed against Mafuka was too excessive and would induce a sense of shock.

“The witnesses were so inconsistent and unreliable. There was potential of lying against the accused person,” said Mhungu.

Mafuka, who has been serving his prison term at Mutare Prison after being transferred from Chipinge Prison, is expected to be released from prison once the clerk of court from Chipinge Magistrates serves the Warrant of Liberation to the Officer in Charge of Mutare Prison.

(Source)

State harassment of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe continued this week when police attempted to serve summons to 14 activists arrested in May 2008. Only one member, Clara Manjengwa, received the summons to appear in Harare Magistrate’s Court today at 8.30am. When she presented herself at court, there was no docket, witnesses or any record of the matter being due to be heard. The police themselves were not even present. In fact the only evidence that a summons had been served was the copy that Clara herself had. Clara is still recovering from her most recent detention in Harare Central Police Station a few weeks ago and had to leave her sick bed to attend court.

Instead of dismissing the matter out of hand, Prosecutor Chigota insisted on calling out the names of the 14 from Clara’s copy of the summons three times, despite it having been communicated that Clara was the only member to receive the summons. The matter was postponed to 11.30am to give time for the docket to be found. When at 11.30 the docket still had not been found and neither the Investigating Officer nor witnesses were present, Magistrate Munhamato Mutevedzi dismissed the matter. The state will have to proceed by way of summons when they have their case in order.

The 14 members had been arrested on 28th May 2008 near the Zambian Embassy in Harare, where they were to hand over a petition to the SADC chair calling for an end to post-election violence. 12 of the group spent 17 days in Chikurubi and Harare Remand Prisons after the state contested the Magistrate’s granting of bail.  Two members, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, spent 37 days in Chikurubi Prison before being granted bail. The group were charged under Section 37 (1) (c) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘participating in a gathering with the intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry’. After appearing in court on remand several times, the group was finally removed off remand on 15th October 2008.

WOZA condemns this attempt by the state to resurrect this case over two years later without any additional evidence as pure harassment of human rights defenders. It raises concerns of renewed violence and persecution of pro-democracy activists ahead of a possible election next year.

(Source: via email)

An attorney for Zimbabwe’s finance minister says the highest court has thrown out his case in which he claims his arrest and detention during 2008 elections was illegal.

Tendai Biti, a former opposition politician and now a key minister, was detained on charges of treason and for claiming victory for the opposition. The treason charge could have been punishable by the death penalty.

The opposition did win, but not by the margin needed to avoid a presidential run-off.

Attorney Lewis Uriri said the Supreme Court dismissed Biti’s action against the police because court papers were not handled in time. The slowness of the court system means “authorities can escape liability for abuses of fundamental rights,” he said.

Biti says he’ll appeal Monday’s ruling.

(Source)

Five young Zimbabwean school girls have petitioned the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, to rule on the legality of the refusal by a school to admit them on grounds of their ‘unshaven heads’.

The five, all Grade Seven pupils, had successfully applied for Form One places at the Hermann Gmeiner High School but were denied places after refusing on religious grounds to cut their hairs ‘to acceptable school standards’.

The girls are members of an obscure religious group, the End Time Messages Church, which bars its female members from shaving or cutting their hairs.

In their suit, the girls said the school’s hairstyle requirements were unconstitutional and infringed both on their religious and human rights.

They contended in the petition that Hermann Gmeiner High School, a privately-owned school in the northern town of Bindura, was in breach of the Constitution of Zimbabwe through its hairstyle requirements and should be compelled to admit them .

‘The school’s rules are discriminatory and the refusal to admit the girls into the school was not under the authority of any law,’ the girls’ attorney argued in the petition.

The girls also quoted some verses in the Bible, including 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verse 6, to back their court application against the school.

Apart from the school authorities, the Attorney General and Minister of Education were also cited as respondents in the case.

This is not the first time school authorities in Zimbabwe have had to contend with court cases involving hairstyles.

In 2007, the Supreme Court compelled a school in the capital, Harare, to admit a neight-year-old boy it had turned away over dreadlocks.

A few years ago, two dreadlocked lawyers petitioned the courts after being barred from practicing and taking up seats in Parliament.

(Source)

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